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Hofer and Italy Survived the Wall
The last uphill before the stadium, the Wall, played a huge role in the mixed relay. Italy, Ukraine, Norway and Russia climbed the hill side by side, and one by one they had to give up. Except Italy’s Lukas Hofer. He was the strongest of them, and he crossed the finish line first at 1:15:08.3. Ukraine surprised by finishing second 1.5 seconds behind Italy, and Norway was third.
Dorothea Wierer started the relay for Italy, one of the favorites. She admitted her prone could have been better, but she was satisfied with her shooting time and skiing.
– I was sure Lukas can do it, because of his great performance, she trusted Hoter to finish first.
Lisa Vittozzi felt the race was very difficult because of the heavy wind while shooting at the standing position.
– I just tried to go faster, she explained.
Italy had fallen a little bit behind Ukraine and Norway in the first two loops, but Dominik Windisch lifted Italy not only back to the race but to first place.
– I’m really satisfied. In the last loop I tried to get every second I could for Lukas. I really did my best. I knew he is in a good shape, and he can do it, Windisch said.
Italy, Ukraine, Norway and Russia were within five seconds at the last two shootings. Windisch trusted his countryman.
– It was really interesting. I knew he (Hofer) is in a really good shape and very strong in the last uphill. I was waiting for his attack, and when he attacked, I was sure he would win.
When Hoter left the shooting range for the last loop, he told himself he can’t lose today. He just tried to close the gap as soon as possible.
– It was really tough at the end, but I’m happy, he said.
Ukraine was a surprise second and Norway third, even tough the starter Synnöve Solemdal broke her pole.
– I had to climb he steep uphill with just one pole. But that was okay, she said.
Team Finland (Venla Lehtonen, Mari Laukkanen, Tero Seppälä and Olli Hiidensalo) finished 13th, 3:38.3 behind Italy.
Laukkanen was happy with her shooting, and she felt her skiing was better than the day before.
– All the support from the fans was great. It made me try very hard till the end, she thanked the crowd.
Hiidensalo had some trouble with the wind at the prone, but all in all he thought the race was okay.
Text: Varpu Sihvonen
Photo: Piia Kinnunen